When life hands you lemons, make a pie. The lemon meringue pie that I am savouring, accompanied with good black navy, with a pinch of salt, coffee help to clear the cobwebs of my mind. Meringue was invented sometime in the 17th century, in Switzerland, France, or England; depending on who’s telling the story. The French refer to slowly baked meringues as “farts” due to their light and fluffy texture. The victuals ease the pounding in my head as I try to sort out the events of last night.
What I remember as “last night” was actually a couple of weeks ago. Apparently I suffered some sort of delusion of grandeur and at some point started to tear apart the helm station with my bare hands. The medical team, aboard the HMS Dechaineux, put me in an induced coma to reboot my brain. After I was weaned out of the coma, I was confined to quarters to recover. I wonder what else was in that tea.
My psychological assessment complete, only a few unresolved latent variables, I am allowed to roam the ship. Over pie and coffee, captain Sky tells me he needs a “favour”. Before I can quote the price for “favours” Rivers reminds me that the hospitality he’s shown me aboard his boat, despite my dream rampage, should neutralise any fees I may charge. Rats, a freebee.
Captain Rivers Sky then dropped the other shoe. “Don’t worry, it’s all cleared with your boss in Kathmandu”. Apparently, Jae was concerned for my well being, that perhaps someone made good on Ten’s contract. Captain Sky goes on to tell me that the American FBI expressed an interest in my capture and it would be a shame were he compelled to collect the bounty at my expense. Sky is well connected and I need to be cautious.
“OK, what are we looking at” , I ask. Captain Sky provides the back story, I was going to protest, but decided to let him speak his piece. Stacy Bonaparte, no relation the former emperor of France, but rather a descendant of John of Arc. Stacy’s cause is the proclamation that her ancestor, John of Arc is the true hero that was instrumental in driving the English from France toward the end of the Hundred Year War.
It was John of Arc that led the French army to victory and brought about the coronation of Charles VII as King in 1429. “After all, what army would follow a teenage girl into battle?”, Captain Sky chuckles, concluding the back story. Stacy has acquired, or manufactured, reams of evidence supporting her claim. She is attracting a lot of attention from powerful religious leaders. Leaders looking to discredit or silence Stacy.
“Not that I care”, because I didn’t, “what’s in it for her, this claim that John is the hero?”. Captain Sky shrugs, “Nothing, as far as anyone can tell. There is no family fortune, no lineage to the throne, not even aristocratic claims to be had”. I ask why the church doesn’t just label her a nutter and haul her off to an insane asylum?
“It’s not that easy,”, chimes in a new member in the conversation. “As her last name is Bonaparte, she has the sympathy of the masses.” I am introduced to Montique, a New Zealand SIS operative. Monti has been aboard observing tactics and policies of the RANSS for future joint missions. Rivers tells me that Montique will be my partner, a.k.a. babysitter, to help assure the success of the mission. I have no room to complain, besides, who knows, a “red shirt” could be handy.
Montique details the initial aspects of the mission. Tonight at 21:00 hours, the submarine will surface about twenty miles off the coast of Cap-d’Ail, France. Barely on the mainland side of the shipping lanes, we will launch a stealth R.I.B., outfitted with electric outboards, we will cruise to shore undetected. Oh boy, I think, electric outboards? This will take a while. Jaxon volunteers to pilot the inflatable boat to shore, but Captain Sky advises that won’t be necessary. The craft is equipped with a homing device that automatically returns it to the submarine, even if the sub has moved since launch.
Once ashore, we will disembark the rubber craft and proceed north to the Fairmont Monte Carlo in Monaco, it should be only an hour’s walk. I mention that I’d prefer to stay in Nice, at the Negresco, I have a reserved suite; and a salacious young lady with a hamster suit on call. Monti immediately refused, explaining that after the Negresco’s infestation problem back in ’08, he absolutely refuses to stay there. That explains all the bites I noticed after staying there; I thought they were playful nibbles from the whore.
After two days in Monaco to purchase some clothes and acquire weapons, we are to proceed to Rouen and our quarry. Two days doesn’t give me much time to line up entertainment as well as find a proper tailor. Captain Sky cut me off, explaining that time is an issue. Elections in France are coming up and the “powers that be” want this distraction quelled. I might as well get some more of Zeki’s Cardamom flavoured lemon meringue pie; looks like this will be my only pleasure for a while.
The two electric outboard motors on the R.I.B. are surprisingly powerful and speed us ashore quickly and nearly silently. Monti and I get to the hotel without incident; it felt good to walk more than nine feet at a time. After checking in to our rooms, Monti meets me at the bar for a nightcap.